The majority of the multi-million dollar ransom handed over to Somali pirates for the release of a Ukrainian cargo ship was paid by a Ukrainian billionaire, the presidential press office said on Monday.

The Faina was hijacked off the Horn of Africa on September 25, 2008, and released at the start of last month. The ransom is believed to have been between $3 and $4 million.

"There is no itemization in the budget for 'funds for the release of hostages," read the Ukrainian presidential press service statement.

"Therefore, the amount had to be collected from non-budget sources. As the head of the presidential chief of staff and coordinator of special operations, I officially requested help from Ukrainian businessmen who are well-known for their charity projects," the statement continued.

"Viktor Pinchuk financed the lion's share of the expenses - several million dollars - in order to secure the release of the Ukrainian crewmembers. These were his own funds that he, as the founder of a charity, decided to use in order to free the Faina's crew," the statement concluded.

Steel magnate Pinchuk is one of Ukraine's richest men. According to Forbes, in 2007 his wealth stood at $5 billion. He is one of the main sponsors of a charitable foundation organized by ex-U.S. president Bill Clinton.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko personally thanked Pinchuk for his contribution toward the release of the Faina and its crew, the statement also read, RIA Novosti reported.


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